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Ben Dalton

PhD Work

Taking on the Network: making space for identity play in networked publics

The Creative Exchange hub is a group of people and organisations working to make digital public spaces. I have been collaborating with experts from the hub for over three years, using grounded theory research through design to ask questions with our projects related to identity play in networked publics. I have found that moments of anonymous pseudonymity allow my collaborators and their audiences the agency to engage in taking on the network—as a material-discursive form of carnivalesque resistance and shared responsibility—to make space for empowering and creative forms of identity play. As resistance, people take on the network to contest binary identity apparatus and the context collapse of communicating through the cloud. As responsibility, they take on the network by inverting roles and infrastructures. For example, making belongings—the DIY literacy to fashion networked objects of identity and group membership—means grasping network functions in possessions that can be owned, discarded or modified. Similarly, sticking together—using bricolage to experiment with knowingly fabricated persona and voices—entails the solidarity of taking on the network by making crowds to get lost in.


  • PhD


    School of Communication


    Information Experience Design, 2012–2017

  • Ben is an experimental media technologist who uses research methods of design and art. His research is focused on the field of Designing Identity, including technical, social, political and aesthetic aspects of identity in digital public space.

    Ben has been investigating the theme of design for digital pseudonymity as a member of the Creative Exchange AHRC Knowledge Exchange Hub at the Royal College of Art, London. Ben is a Principal Lecturer in the Faculty of Art, Environment & Technology at Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, and an AHRC funded Digital Public Space doctoral researcher. Ben has recently shown work, given talks and run workshops on themes of identity design including 31c3 Hamburg, Digital Media Labs Barrow-in-Furness, ICA London, FACT Liverpool, FutureEverything Manchester, TodaysArt The Hague, Berghs Stockholm, Abandon Normal Devices Liverpool, WWW Rio de Janeiro, Sensuous Knowledge Bergen, and DIS Newcastle.

    Ben has a background in ubiquitous computing and mobile sensor networks from the MIT Media Lab, and has conducted research in the Århus University Electron-Molecular Interaction group, University of Leeds Spintronics and Magnetic Nanostructures lab, and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, London. Recently he has been a regular guest Professor at the Bergen National Academy of Art and Design, teaching workshops on interaction design and geolocated media. Ben was co-investigator on two EPSRC/ESRC/AHRC funded research projects in: visualising pedestrian usage patterns in interactive urban spaces; and wearable computing sensors for ubiquitous computing applications. He has worked on Hewlett-Packard funded development of a GPS music city archive app. He is also currently co-directing with Amber Frid-Jimenez a project titled Data is Political on art, design, and the politics of information, which has included an international symposium funded in part by VERDIKT (Research Council of Norway).

    Ben's current research investigates Identity Design (including identity play and pseudonymity) by looking at the themes of identity performance and digital public space. Identity construction has long been a key element of design in typography, branding and layout. Identity construction is also key in the politics of social systems and theories of self. These perspectives help uncover the future of identity design online and in digital systems. Ben's research includes developing prototype apps and services that explore modern fragmented identity. He has talked about identity construction in the workplace and social spaces, following collaborative projects with partners like the BBC and international art institutions.

    Digital public space is a growing field of research that encompasses personal data stores, networked commons and construction of sustainable digital 'publics'. Ben's research with the Creative Exchange builds on years of work exploring the role of digital technology in physical public spaces. Ben has developed apps and interactive media with commercial and government partners including urban big screen interaction, mobile city geolocation games and festivals.